Anti-Government Protests Spread Across Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Anti-government protests broke out in Port-au-Prince and reportedly spread to several other cities after the general who leads the ruling council announced the appointment of five new Cabinet ministers.
A peaceful demonstration Monday in Port-au-Prince by about 7,000 people demanding a civilian government ended in violence when rioting mobs attacked police and blocked streets with burning debris.
No deaths or injuries were reported.
The independent Radio Metropole reported similar disruptions in other cities in this impoverished Caribbean island, including Les Cayes and Jeremie.
The violence occurred shortly after Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, the council president, announced the appointment of the new ministers. As Namphy read the brief announcement over national radio and television, protestersshoute d ″Down with Namphy 3/8″ outside the gates of the National Palace.
Mobs of young people dragged tires onto several downtown thoroughfares and set them ablaze Monday night. Some streets were blocked completely by steel or cement structures.
The mobs melted away after 8 p.m., when the curfew in force for six weeks went into effect. Riot police patroled the streets, and sporadic shots rang out during the night.
The downtown area was quiet this morning, with motorists swerving around charred remains of burned tires and lumps of concrete dragged onto the streets during the previous day’s rioting. Women balancing baskets of chickens, fruit and other goods on their heads went to market, and children headed to school.
On Monday, Richard Widmaier, program director of Radio Metropole, said he saw rioters block a police car, then overturn it.
″They didn’t shoot,″ he said of the police. ″They threatened to shoot and walked away.″
But Jean-Pierre Cloutier, an Associated Press reporter, said he saw a policeman draw his pistol and fire toward the crowd. One rioter hurled a rock through the windshield of a moving police truck, but no one was injured, Cloutier said. He said the rioter was arrested.
The protests were aimed at the ruling council.
″We don’t want Namphy,″ said Michaud Fraustin, a 22-year-old unemployed laborer standing near burning tires at an intersection.
Earlier Monday, Namphy announced the appointment of five new Cabinet ministers, two of them taking over the portfolios of council members who resigned.
Last Thursday and Friday, four of the original six council members who took over Feb. 7 when ousted President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier fled to exile, turned in their resignations.
Gerard Gourgue, the justice minister and former president of Haiti’s private Human Rights League, was the most popular council member. After he resigned last Thursday - citing the makeup of the council - Namphy announced the resignations of three other members.
Diplomatic sources said Namphy apparently was trying to head off negative reaction to Gourgue’s resignation by removing three unpopular council members.
Namphy offered no explanation for the resignations. One media account cited government sources as saying Alix Cineas and army Cols. Prosper Avril and Max Valles really were fired.
Now on the council with Namphy are his close aides Col. Williams Regala and former Foreign Affairs Minister Jacques A. Francois.
Namphy said Monday that Francois Latortue will succeed Gourgue as justice minister and Col. Herard Abraham will replace Valles as minister of information. The foreign affairs portfolio held by Francois will be taken over by Jean-Baptiste Hilaire.
Mario Celestin will be the new minister of commerce and Gerard Noel the minister of social affairs, replacing Tony Auguste.
Celestin succeeds Leonce Thelusma, who quit two weeks ago after Commerce Ministry employees refused to work for him because of his ties to the Duvalier regime.